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Re: grad school and depression

Posted by Nancy on April 5, 1999, at 11:00:01

In reply to Re: grad school and depression, posted by Matt on April 2, 1999, at 23:46:33

It would be terrific if we could use our talents, without ever being totally disabled with severe forms of bipolar-1 disorder. Since, during these episodes, it is impossible to do the things you want to do no matter how strong your resolve.
But, count your blessings. There are illnesses and tradgedies that could be worse than having unipolar or bipolar disorder. Not many, but, they are out there.
Throughout my education, I was able to increase my course load in the spring/summer semester. During fall/winter, however, I had to decrease my load by one course. It helped to study with a full-spectrum (2000-lux) bank of lights nailed to the wall at my desk.

email me if you want...Nancy

> How do I do it? Well, it's not easy sometimes. But I've refused to let issues concerning my mental health dictate whether or not I pursue a particular career. I know that there will be times (like now) when I'm not as functional as I'd like to be, and other times when I'm feeling well and I'm able to get lots of work done.
> I've just worked hard not to let it become an excuse for not doing what I want to do. This isn't easy always, for sure.
> It also helps to know that there are lots of people in academia who are far from "normal"-- there are lots of other people who aren't perfect, either. I know of others in my department who struggle with the same issues I struggle with. Others struggle with other issues. There is this tendency to idealize others--to think them as being perfect and to forget that they have their own issues to deal with.
> I've taught four classes per semester most of the semesters I've been in school. My attitude toward teaching is that I'll do my best to convey information to the undergrads I teach, but beyond that I don't care what they think of me. Whether or not they think I'm "cool" or not is of no consequence; my obligation is to attempt to teach to the best of my ability, and I refuse to allow the opinions of undergrads affect my mood or how I feel about myself. If it helps at all, despite sometimes feeling quite depressed and anxious while I had to teach, I've always gotten really good teaching evals.
> Overall I think that it's important to decide what you feel is important and worth caring about. Though all of us certainly do care about how others esteem us and our abilities, it's important to try not to value this esteem too highly. This is difficult, especially in the climate of academia; but I've found that reminding myself of what I believe really to be important (my close relationships, being a decent and kind person, giving my best effort in my studies, etc.) helps me to avoid dwelling on things that I shouldn't dwell on.
> All this is easier said (or typed) than done, of course. It's for this reason that I think that therapy is important. There are lots of potential pitfalls in graduate school, but they can be avoided by keeping an appropriate and accurate view of yourself and what you value. But when you've got tons of work to do--papers to write, grade, whatever--it can be tough to maintain this perspective. Counseling helps with this.
> I've learned lots about myself in the years I've been in graduate school, but one thing I keep relearning is that my view of how others view me often is just completely incorrect. My depression and anxiety can tend to colour how I see myself, and I often wind up assuming that others must see me in the same way. But I'm often reminded (and always surprised, though by now I shouldn't be) that others don't view me as "mentally ill" or dysfunctional or anything like that. Having good friends who are understanding and who can help me to keep an accurate view of myself has helped tremendously.
> I certainly wouldn't let your anxiety and depression keep you from attending graduate school. If need be, you likely can defer enrollment for a year. But it's important, I think, not to let all this stuff beat you by keeping you from what you really would like to do.
> Best,
> Matt




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